Africa Media Review for November 16, 2017

African Union Head Says Zimbabwe Army Takeover ‘Seems Like a Coup’
The army chiefs who seized the capital, including the presidential palace and the state broadcaster early on Wednesday, claimed they had not carried out a coup. President Robert Mugabe is believed to be under house arrest despite an army claim that he was “safe”. The Zimbabwean army said it took Mr Mugabe and his wife Grace into custody but there are unconfirmed and disputed reports that the first lady has fled the country and may be in Namibia. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed for calm, non-violence and restraint after gunfire and explosions were heard near Mr Mugabe’s compound. Sky News

Zimbabwe Military Warns It Will Exact a Response against Those Who Do Not Cooperate
Zimbabwe remained under tight military control Wednesday, with the army brass calling for cooperation “for the good of our country,” or warning of consequences. In a statement read on state-run television, military leaders announced that military leaves are canceled, and they urged troops to report to their barracks. The statement warned that “any provocation will be met with an appropriate response.” It did not elaborate what constituted an “appropriate response.” The army continued to insist it had not toppled the civilian government of President Robert Mugabe and said the frail 93-year-old president is safe. Los Angeles

Eyes on the ‘Crocodile’ as Zimbabwe Military Sweeps to Power
When Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe sacked his vice-president in front of 12,000 baying party members in 2014, Emmerson Mnangagwa sat quietly in the crowd, a green baseball cap pulled low over his eyes. The man who stood to gain most from the dismissal betrayed nothing through his expression and gentle clapping – a survival tactic honed during five decades of service to the mercurial Mugabe. His cap, however, spoke volumes. Emblazoned across its front, next to a portrait of Mugabe, were four words: “Indigenise, Empower, Develop, Employ” – a slogan of the ruling ZANU-PF party. Speaking at the congress, Mnangagwa reinforced the message from his headgear, announcing revisions to the party’s constitution that backed “total ownership and control” of Zimbabwe’s natural resources. Times Live

US Lawmakers React to Apparent Mugabe Ouster
U.S. lawmakers welcomed the apparent ouster of Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe, although not the military action that confined Mugabe to his home and could end his 37-year rule. Maryland Senator Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, deemed Mugabe’s sidelining a desirable outcome accomplished through less than desirable means. “We obviously don’t like coups,” Cardin said Wednesday, but he suggested that “it’s time for the country of Zimbabwe to move on. I hope that they will find a democratic process.” Arizona Republican Senator Jeff Flake has firsthand knowledge of Zimbabwe. He lived in Zimbabwe in the 1980s and wrote his master’s thesis on Mugabe, “trying to explain his hold on power. It’s been a long-term interest for me.” VOA

Britain Does Not Want to See Another Tyrant in Power in Zimbabwe, Johnson Says
Britain does not want to see one tyrant take over from another in Zimbabwe after the military seized power in Harare, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said on Wednesday. “Nobody wants simply to see the transition from one unelected tyrant to a next. Noone wants to see that. We want to see proper, free and fair elections,” Johnson told the British parliament. Reuters

US Drone Strike in Somalia Kills ‘Several’ with Al-Shabab
The U.S. military said Wednesday it has carried out another drone strike against al-Shabab in Somalia that killed several extremists, the latest in a weeklong series of strikes that have left dozens dead. The U.S. Africa Command said it was the 28th such airstrike this year in Somalia against both the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab and the new but growing presence of Islamic State group fighters. Since last Thursday, drone strikes in Somalia against both extremist groups have killed more than 45 fighters, the U.S. military said. This is the busiest stretch of airstrikes since the Trump administration earlier this year approved expanded military operations against extremists in this long-fractured Horn of Africa nation. AP

Canada Will Not Send Peacekeepers to Mali in near Future: Officials
Canada will not be sending hundreds of peacekeepers to support a United Nations mission in Mali in the near future, officials said on Wednesday, a move likely to disappoint allies who want Canadians to play a role in the West African country. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last year promised to contribute up to 600 troops to peacekeeping operations and Canadian defense experts made three trips to Mali, where soldiers under the U.N. are fighting Islamist militants. Canada said it would split its soldiers among various missions instead, with no more than 200 going to any one spot, and will offer transport aircraft and helicopters in a series of “smart pledge” initiatives. It will also help train peacekeepers. Reuters

Understanding South Sudan’s Cow Currency Is Key to Understanding the Country’s War
The preferred form of currency in South Sudan is not cash, but cows. That turns out to be key to understanding why the civil war there not only left many dead, it destroyed a whole way of life — and the best chance for peace. NPR

Italy, Germany Defend Libyan Patrols after UN Criticism
Italy and Germany on Wednesday defended their support for Libyan coast guard patrols returning migrants to Libya, after the U.N. human rights chief denounced the policy as inhuman. Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano and his German counterpart, Sigmar Gabriel, met in Rome a day after the U.N. released the findings of a visit to Libyan detention centers. Human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said the conditions the U.N. team uncovered were “an outrage to the conscience of humanity.” The U.N. monitors, who visited Nov. 1-6, found thousands of hungry men, women and children locked up in packed hangars. Many had been victim of torture, rape, forced labor, starvation and physical violence during their journeys and in Libyan detention centers, the team said. AP

US Changes Tone on UN Peacekeeping Efforts
The US has announced its continued support for UN peacekeeping efforts, months after President Donald Trump disparaged the organisation and called for swingeing cuts. “From the United Nations to Nato to the [Defeat-Isis] coalition, the United States values partnerships and is committed to enhancing them,” said Patrick Shanahan, US deputy defence secretary, at a meeting of defence ministers from troop-contributing countries on Tuesday in Vancouver, according to prepared remarks. US support for UN peacekeeping is at the heart of a battle over America’s role in the world, worrying allies and causing some Republicans to accuse Mr Trump of forfeiting US leadership. Mr Shanahan described peacekeeping as “important” to the US, and emphasised alliances and peacekeeping in distinction to past comments from the president. The Financial Times

UN Votes to Add 900 Peacekeepers in Central African Republic
The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution Wednesday increasing the U.N. peacekeeping force in conflict-torn Central African Republic by 900 soldiers to a total of 11,650 military personnel. The resolution comes at a time when the impoverished country, known as CAR, faces growing communal tensions, spreading violence and a deteriorating humanitarian situation. France’s U.N. Ambassador Francois Delattre, who sponsored the resolution, said that with deteriorating security and increasing humanitarian needs, the Security Council “cannot afford to take the risk of allowing CAR to relapse into a crisis as tragic as the one in which it was mired between early 2012 and early 2014.” Central African Republic has been wracked by violence between Muslims and Christians since predominantly Muslim Seleka rebels overthrew the Christian president in March 2013 and seized power. AP

Algerian Foreign Minister Says Region under Threat after ISIS Defeats
Algerian Foreign Minister Abdelkader Messahel said Wednesday that North Africa is under threat from foreign fighters escaping ISIS defeats in Iraq and Syria. Messahel spoke at a news conference in Cairo after a meeting with his Egyptian and Tunisian counterparts, Sameh Shoukry and Khemaies Jhinaoui, over Libya. ISIS rose to prominence in the chaos of Syria’s conflict, which broke out in 2011 with protests against President Bashar al-Assad. After its explosive rise in 2014 and conquest of vast swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq, ISIS established a “caliphate” that attracted thousands of foreign fighters. Al Arabiya

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State visits Sudan
In the first visit of a senior U.S. diplomat to Sudan since long years ago, the Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan will be in the Sudanese capital Thursday for talks on bilateral relations after the lift of economic sanctions. The State Department Tuesday announced the visit saying it would be part of an eight-day tour including France, Sudan, Tunisia, and Nigeria from November 14-21. Sullivan “will then travel to Khartoum, where he will meet with Foreign Minister Ghandour and other government officials to discuss ways to build on progress following the completion of the Five-Track Engagement Plan in October”. “He will also advance discussions on the DPRK (North Korea) and human rights, including religious freedom” further stressed the statement. Sudan Tribune

Cameroon Seizing ‘Farming Tools’ as Separatist Attacks Get Deadly
Security forces in Cameroon have been conducting raids in the homes across the southwest region in the wake of deadly attacks by separatists. The country’s Anglophone regions – northwest (capital, Bamenda) and southwest (capital, Buea) are under curfew following deadly attacks on security forces last week. The BBC reports that residents in Munyenge – a rural community in the southwest say they have lost their farming and hunting tools among other implements. Africa News

Angolan President Sacks Predecessor’s Daughter as State Oil Chief
Angola’s president, João Lourenço, has sacked his predecessor’s daughter as head of the state oil company as part of a drive to assert his authority. Lourenco swept to power as the ruling party’s candidate in August elections after pledging to clean up Angola’s endemic graft, tackle nepotism and revive its economy. During the campaign he vowed to distance himself from his predecessor José Eduardo dos Santos, who governed for 38 years and who remains head of the ruling People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). “Under the powers vested in him by the constitution, the president … has decided to relieve the following directors who make up the board of Sonangol,” said a statement on Wednesday, which named the former president’s daughter Isabel. The Guardian

Security Council Extends Mandates of United Nations Interim Force for Abyei
The Security Council decided this morning to extend until 15 April 2018 the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force for Abyei (UNISFA), and to limit support for the disputed territory’s border monitoring mechanism to a further five months, while awaiting implementation of measures agreed by Sudan and South Sudan. Unanimously adopting resolution 2386 (2017), the Council also decided to maintain UNISFA’s authorized troop ceiling at 4,791, after which it would decrease to 4,235 unless the Council decided to extend the mission’s support for the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism. ReliefWeb

A Look at Deposed African Leaders and Where They Are Now
As shock continues over the fate of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, who vowed to rule until death but now finds himself in military custody, here’s a look at other larger-than-life African leaders who spent years in power, then lost it. AP



Photo: Adam Jones